By Pam Zubeck
Will local law enforcement officials enforce Gov. Jared Polis’ July 16 mask mandate aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, or not?
Well, yes and no.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder initially said he wouldn’t enforce the mask mandate, but he put out a video July 17 in which he explains that position, which is this:
His department will not force someone to wear a mask. However, if someone enters a building not wearing a mask — in violation of Polis’ executive public health order that all people 10 and older must wear masks in enclosed spaces and on public transportation or while waiting for public transportation — and the owner, operator or manager of that space asks that person to put on a mask or leave, and they refuse to do either, then the Sheriff’s Office will investigate a complaint of criminal trespass.
But deputies will not force people to wear masks, Elder said.
The Colorado Springs Police Department provided an outline of its enforcement plans on July 21 on Twitter to inform the public of what to expect:
We know there are a lot of questions about whether or not police will issue citations to those who violate this order. The Colorado Springs Police Department will focus on education and voluntary compliance over enforcement.
Officers may enforce trespass statutes or ordinances if community members refuse to leave a business or other indoor public space when asked to do so by the owner, manager, or any other employee.
Officers have been given the following guidance regarding the Governor’s Order:
• What CSPD Guidance Directs: It is not a police matter if a person calls saying a business or other indoor public space is letting people not wear face coverings.
• What It Means for Community Members: We will not respond to calls for service if the only reported information is that a business is not in compliance with the Governor’s order. That is a business licensing issue.
• What CSPD Guidance Directs: If a call comes to our dispatch center from an employee or business owner saying a person refuses to leave after refusing to wear a face covering, it is considered a trespass call for service.
• What It Means for Community Members: Officers responding to these types of calls are asked to first attempt to resolve the matter without criminal charges, and instead focus on voluntary compliance. If someone refuses to leave after being asked to do so by the business and the officer, officers may cite the person for failing to leave the premises or vehicle. This is a trespass citation.
• What CSPD Guidance Directs: If a person expresses the inability to wear a face mask or face covering due to a medical condition, the officer will not take action that could be considered discriminatory under the law.
• What It Means for Community Members: If an officer responds to a situation where someone says there is a medical reason they cannot wear a mask or face covering, the officer’s actions will be consistent with the [Americans] with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
While we focus on education, we ask that all our community members voluntarily comply with this order so we can all stay safe and healthy.